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New app helps visually impaired

Artificial intelligence is being used to empower the blind, with Microsoft launching a free app that narrates the world around them in real time.

The Seeing AI app uses an iPhone camera to scan and read out text on documents, such as a menu or nutritional content on food packaging.

It also recognises people who come into view and provides an audible description of them, including their facial expression.

Different dollar notes are even detected by the technology.

It gives the blind the “power to see”, says Jenny Lay Flurrie, Microsoft’s Chief Accessibility Officer.

Developed by the tech giant after a blind ‘hack’ came up with the idea, the app has the ability to change the lives of the vision impaired and make them feel more included, says Lay-Flurrie – who is deaf.

“We want and need people with disabilities to be as empowered as everyone else,” she said.

“Disability is a strength and we need to be able to perform at the same level as everybody else.”

Artificial intelligence is intelligence displayed by machines and computers in contrast to human or animal intelligence.

“It’s the ability of computers to understand the world around us,” according to Dave Heiner, Strategic Policy Advisor at Microsoft.

Mr Heiner believes AI has the ability to revolutionise healthcare and the app is a healthy demonstration of this.

“There are (health) records that are ripe for data analysis but the healthcare industry in general is just behind in digitising things,” Mr Heiner told AAP.

“But if you have rich data that is accessible we could reduce the incidence of illness, help people working on a cure for cancer by doing the analysis.

“You could help radiologists do a better job at detecting cancerous tumours on x-rays and prevent preventable hospital errors.”

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